Social network requires giving up first-born; nobody notices

WASHINGTON — The last thing a smartphone user wants to do when first using a new social media app is read through pages and pages of legal language, even if the user is agreeing to outrageous conditions.

A new study, called “The Biggest Lie on the Internet,” shows almost nobody reads the lengthy privacy policy and terms of service that comes when signing up for social networks.

Students in a university were told their school was working with a fledgling social network, called NameDrop, and students would be participating in a pre-launch evaluation.

What the students didn’t know was NameDrop was phony — created only for the study.

Clauses in the privacy policy and terms of service contained over-the-top disclosures, including that NameDrop may share the user data with governmental agencies, including the National Security Agency.

Another condition said users may be required to give their first-born child to NameDrop, through the year 2050.

The study says 74 percent of the participants skipped reading the privacy policy.

Few who read the policies spent more than one minute digesting it, although it would take the average adult reader almost 45 minutes to read both the privacy policy and terms of service.

The study, whose authors are affiliated with York University, Michigan State University and the University of Connecticut, found even students who read the phony clauses signed up for the social network anyway.

The authors conclude the current method of alerting users to their conditions of privacy and social network use terms is ineffective, and suggested finding other ways of providing that information.

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